Article No. 17, 1985
It is written in The Zohar, Vaera (item 89): “Rabbi Elazar started and said, ‘Know today and reply to your heart that the Lord, He is God.’ He asks, ‘It should have said, ‘Know this day that the Lord, He is God,’ and in the end, ‘And reply to your heart,’ since knowing that the Lord is God qualifies him to respond so to the heart.’ He answers, ‘But Moses said, ‘If you want to insist on it and know ‘that the Lord is God,’ then ‘reply to your heart.’ Thus, we cannot know ‘that the Lord, he is God,” except by replying to the heart.’ This is why the text first brings ‘reply to your heart,’ to know by this that ‘the Lord he is God.’”
We should interpret this in the work. The order of the work is not what seems logical, as is the view of the nations of the world—first “we will hear,” and then “we will do.” Rather, first “we will do,” and then “we will hear,” as Israel said, “We will do and we will hear.” Our sages said (Shabbat, 88), “When Israel preceded doing to hearing, a voice came out and told them, ‘Who told my sons this secret, which the ministering angels used?’” It follows that by saying, “We will do and we will hear,” they became similar to the ministering angels and not to people.
We should understand the reason for this: An angel is called a “messenger.” There are two types of angels:
1) Those who do not mind what the sender tells them to do and take no interest in the act itself. Similarly, one who gives a package to give to another is not interested in the content of the package or the connection between the sender of the object and the messenger. But if he wants to carry out the sender’s instructions he does it willingly. Certainly, the messenger receives some reward for this action, and this is called “serving the rav [great one/teacher] in order to receive reward.”
2) Sometimes, if the sender is an important person, his reward is the privilege of serving the rav, and he does not need any other reward, called a “prize.” It follows that the messenger has no interest or need to know the connection between the sender, who is sending the object to the receiver of the object. Also, he has no need to know what is the object, meaning what is in that package that he has received from the sender to bring to this or that person.
This is the meaning of “we will do,” like a messenger who is not interested at all, since we want to serve the king, to give him pleasure, and our pleasure is in having the possibility to serve him. This is the meaning of being an angel, meaning a messenger.
“We will hear” means that he already listens and understand the matter through and through. That is, at that time he is not regarded as an angel, a messenger. Rather, at that time he becomes the receiver of the gift from the messenger. And then it is not regarded as messenger and sender, but as receiver and giver, since he knows what is in that package because the giver wants him to receive the package and see the importance of the gift he is giving him.
According to the above we can interpret that the meaning of “reply to your heart” as “we will do,” which is faith above reason. Afterwards we can be rewarded with “the Lord, He is God,” which is “we shall hear.”
An act means potential action, when he has nothing to reply to the body’s question. He sees that what the body is asking is a correct question, to which he has no answer. At that time there is no room for deliberation because it is asking correct questions. At that time there is only one answer: “above reason.” That is, although the body objects to all the things he wants to do for the Creator, he should say, “a Mitzva [good deed] induces a Mitzva.”
And since he has one Mitzva, which he always keeps, the Mitzva of circumcision, a Mitzva that the body cannot resist, if he can be happy with one thing, even that he is keeping the Creator’s commandment, if he is thinking about keeping this Mitzva, of which the body has no opinion, by that he can reawaken his work and toil diligently once again, as he did prior to the descent.
However, we must know that each ascent is a new thing. That is, when a person ascends, he does not return to the previous state. Rather, it is always a new discernment, as the ARI says, “One day is not like another; and one moment is not like another; and one cannot correct that which one’s friend will correct.”
By that we can interpret what our sages said (Minchot 43), “When David entered the bath-house and saw himself standing naked, he said, ‘Woe unto me for I am standing naked, without Mitzvot [good deeds/corrections].’ When he remembered the Mitzva of circumcision in his flesh, his mind was eased. When he came out he said a psalm about it, as it was said, ‘To the chief musician on the eighth,’ concerning the circumcision, which was given on the eighth.”
We should interpret that a bath-house is when a person comes to purify himself. A state of purity is called “bath-house.” At that time, when he looks at himself, at how much Torah and Mitzvot he has, and of which he can say he did for the Creator, he sees himself as naked. This concerns the past. Afterwards he looks at the present and sees that now, too, he does not want to do anything in order to bestow. This is the meaning of the words, “Woe unto me for I am standing naked, without Mitzvot.”
“When he remembered the Mitzva of circumcision in his flesh, his mind was eased,” since due in the commandment of circumcision he had no foreign thoughts because the view of the infant did not participate during the circumcision. Now, on the basis of the circumcision, he begins to build the order of his work, meaning that it will be above reason, too.
“When he came out he said a psalm about it.” That is, once he was out of his state, meaning during the ascent, regarded as coming out of the bath-house, when he has been purified, “He said a psalm about it,” since he built the whole structure henceforth on that basis of above reason, since the first Mitzva he had was above his reason.
This is why we should interpret that he “saw himself standing naked” means that he had no desire to do Mitzvot. Thus, he had no connection to Kedusha [holiness], since the body resisted anything of Kedusha. But “he remembered the Mitzva of circumcision in his flesh,” to which the body cannot resist. Even those who circumcised themselves, although they had choice while they were circumcising themselves, at the time they were in ascent, or they would not circumcise themselves. Afterwards, during the descent, they no longer had choice concerning the circumcision.
But women, who do not need to circumcise their bodies, with what can they overcome? It is possible because of Arvut [mutual guarantee], that “Israel are responsible for one another.” That Mitzva was literally carved in his flesh, meaning in his body, and not in a practical Mitzva, which is from the externality of his body. “His mind was eased,” meaning that in such a state of descent he is still connected to the commandments of the Creator.
This can give him room to build his structure of Kedusha and say to his body, “You cannot bring me to despair, since you see that you are detached from the whole issue of Torah and Mitzvot, and you have no desire, so why are you still dreaming that it is possible that the Creator will bring you closer than others? You see that you are worse than others, so where do you get this insolence that He should bring you closer, to walk on the path of truth, which is to bestow and not receive anything, when you see that your body doesn’t even agree to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]?”
To this comes the answer that the Creator deliberately left a Mitzva in your body, so you will be able to see that there is still something that connects you to the Creator, meaning the Mitzva of circumcision, which you cannot cancel. This is the meaning of saying, “The outcast shall not be outcast from Him.” Rather, everyone will approach the Creator. This is why his mind was appeased by this, for he began to build all of his reason on the circumcision in his flesh. This is the circumcision that was given on the eighth, since Bina is called “eighth,” which is covered Hassadim, meaning above reason.